Countdown to Kickoff 2012:
The Miami Hurricanes
No team in the ACC lost more in terms of graduated players and early entries into the NFL than Miami, and the Hurricanes may also face the toughest nonconference schedule in the league with road games at Notre Dame (in Chicago) and Kansas State, as well as home tests with South Florida and Bethune-Cookman. Still, look for the “U” to be more than competitive in Year Two of the Al Golden Era.
Golden welcomes back 41 returning lettermen, including 12 starters--four on offense, six on defense, as well as PK Jake Wieclaw and P Dalton Botts, both of whom posted productive first seasons. Wieclaw made good on 11 of 14 FG attempts (.786) while Botts finished 2nd in the ACC in punting average (42.7).
Offensively, QB Stephen Morris, who missed spring drills with a back injury, came back to claim the starting signal caller position from Memphis transfer QB Ryan Williams in a spirited competition in fall camp. Morris started five games as Jacory Harris' backup the past two years, and that experience should be a significant help. Now healthy, Morris has a strong arm and is athletic enough to be a two-way threat. Offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch must find a replacement for leading rusher Lamar Miller, but senior Mike James has enjoyed a strong preseason camp and is leading junior Eduardo Clements, redshirt freshman Dallas Crawford and explosive incoming freshman Duke Johnson for the starting tailback position spot. Rashawn Scott, who impressed in spring drills with his speed and athleticism, joins junior Allen Hurns (31 catches) and sophomore Philip Dorsett (14 catches) as the leaders to replace the departed Travis Benjamin and Tommy Streeter at wide receiver. Experience is available at tight end with Asante Cleveland and Clive Walford returning. On the offensive line, incoming 6-6, 314-pound freshman Ereck Flowers has been a pleasant surprise and is in the running for a starting berth, along with Malcolm Bunch at the tackles, Brandon Linder and Jonathan Feliciano at the guards and sophomore Shane McDermott at center.
Defensive Coordinator Mark D'Onofrio has several promising young players to build his unit around, but he needs more. One of those fast playmakers, sophomore defensive end Anthony Chickillo (a third generation 'Cane), leads a line that also includes defensive tackles Curtis Porter, Darius Smith, Luther Robinson and Olsen Pierre, with Shayon Green at the other DE. Big-play sophomore LB Denzel Perryman moved to the MLB position in the spring and established himself as a force. .He is backed by junior Jimmy Gaines and is flanked by senior Ramon Buchanon and sophomore Terry Armbrister on the outside with true junior OLB Tyrone Cornelius and freshmen Dwayne Hoilett and Tyriq McCord battling for playing time. In the secondary, CB's Brandon McGee and JUCO transfer Ladarius Gunter are the leaders to start, with precocious true freshman CB Tracy Howard pushing for playing time. Senior Vaughn Telemaque (36 career starts) and with junior Kacy Rodgers, II are the likely starters at safety.
No team was closer to a big season than the Hurricanes last fall, as all six of their losses were by eight or fewer points. Golden and his staff hope that with a year in the system, the young players will turn around a few of those close losses. Golden's crew, though, faces a difficult schedule, even in the cozy confines of Sun Life Stadium. Miami hosts Florida State and Virginia Tech, the pre-season media choices to win the Atlantic and Coastal Divisions, as well as North Carolina and NC State. Tough Coastal Division road trips to Duke, Georgia Tech and Virginia add to the rugged non-league schedule. Add Miami's youth and lack of proven depth, and Golden's program may need another recruiting class like this past year's, which was ranked eighth nationally by ESPN.com, before it starts to challenge for championship contention. The Hurricanes, though, should make their presence felt this fall. - Charlie Sallwasser
2011 In Review
Considering all that Al Golden faced in his first season as head coach of the Miami Hurricanes, the year would have to be deemed a success...Even before his first game, Golden's program was rocked by assertions of NCAA violations before his arrival that resulted in the suspensions of at least eight key players for one or more games...Then in November, Miami denied itself a bowl appearance as part of its self-imposed sanctions...The result saw a 6-6 bowl-eligible squad that sat home for the holidays...Still, there were a lot of positives in the first season of the “Golden Era” in Coral Gables, which included wins over bowl-bound teams Ohio State, North Carolina and Georgia Tech... Further, Golden's Hurricanes were in every game they played as Miami's largest margin of defeat was just eight points including losses to nationally ranked Kansas State (15th), Virginia Tech (21st) and Florida State (23rd) by a total of just 11 points... In his final season QB Jacory Harris led the way, completing 65% of his passes for 2,486 yards, 20 TDs and only 9 interceptions...RB Lamar Miller ran for 1,272 yards, a 5.6 average and 9 TDs and WR's Tommy Streeter and Travis Benjamin combined for 87 catches for 1,420 yards and 11 TDs...OLB Sean Spence finished 2nd in the ACC in TFLs with 14.0...Spence was named a 2nd-team All-America, while Miller earned Honorable Mention All-America honors...LB Denzel Perryman, who was the leading freshman tackler in the ACC (5.8/gm) earned first-team Freshman All-America honors and DE Anthony Chickillo was named a 2nd-team Freshman All-America.
No team in the ACC loses more talent than Miami...The Hurricanes will be without 12 starters, seven on offense and five on defense as well as several other key performers...Offensively, Golden and his staff will have to find replacements for Harris, leading rusher Miller, leading receivers Benjamin and Streeter as well as starting offensive linemen in Horn, G Harland Gunn and T Brandon Washington....On defense, the ‘Canes will be without two of their top three tacklers in Spence and S Jo Jo Nicolas, as well as former starters DE Marcus Robinson, DT Adewale Ojomo and CB Mike Williams and 2nd team All-ACC S Ray-Ray Armstrong, who was dismissed from the team prior to the start of fall camp.
Numbers & Notes
633 - The 2011 winning percentage for Miami's four non-conference opponents. The Hurricanes play at Kansas State (10-3), meet Notre Dame (8-5) in Chicago and host Bethune-Cookman (8-3) and South Florida (5-7). The four combined for an overall 31-18 record last fall.
.667 - Miami played three teams in 2011 that were ranked when they faced them and defeated two of the three. UM downed then-17th-ranked Ohio State and 20th-ranked Georgia Tech, losing only to No. 21 Virginia Tech by three points.
5.5 - The average margin of defeat for Miami in 2011. The Hurricanes lost six games by the total of 33 points, an average of just 5.5 points per game. Miami's largest margin of defeat of the year was just eight points vs. Maryland in the season-opener when the “U” was without eight key players due to suspensions.
8 - The number of incoming freshmen recruits who entered Miami in January in time to take part in spring practice. Joining the Hurricanes early from high school were QBs Gray Crow and Preston Dewey, T Ereck Flowers, DE Dwayne Hoillett, CB Larry Hope, LB Raphael Kirby, OL Taylor Gadbois and LB Josh Witt.
9 - The national ranking of Miami's 2012 recruiting class of 33 recruits by both Rivals.com and Scout.com. ESPN.com ranked Miami's recruiting class 8th best nationally.
17 - Miami ranked 17th nationally in scoring defense in 2011. The Hurricanes allowed an average of just 20.08 points per game.
315.85 - Over the past eight seasons, Miami's defense has held its opponents to just 315.85 yards per game in total offense. The Hurricanes rank 11th nationally in total defense during that time, a span of exactly 100 games.